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B'More Green
An environmental blog for everyday living
Sewer main malfunction dumps overflow into Deep Creek Lake

A Thursday morning sewage spill in McHenry dumped more than 1,700 gallons of overflow into Deep Creek Lake, Garrett County Department of Public works officials.

The department's Utilities Division reported that around 10:17 a.m. officials received a call about a sewer leak at the 1400 block of Deep Creek Drive. Officials found sewage running from a four-inch pipe from a grinder basin in a yard.

Officials said that an anti-siphon valve in the grinder basin and the check valve at the sewer main had failed. The overflow was contained and the valve was shut off, officials said. The sewage flow reached the lake shore, and officials estimate the overflow at 1,740 gallons.

Officials summoned the county health department, the state Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Department of the Environment. The affected area was cleaned, hydrated lime was applied to the area and water samplings were collected, officials said.

Until the results show normal water levels, sampling will continue to...

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Sisters awarded $5 million in lead-paint suit

A Baltimore jury awarded $5 million Friday to a pair of sisters who claimed they suffered permanent brain damage from ingesting flaking lead paint in a rented West Baltimore home two decades ago.

The judgment against Stewart Levitas, a former president of a greater Baltimore landlords group, concluded a five-day Circuit Court trial of a lawsuit brought by Tajah and Tynae Jeffers, with Judge Alfred Nance presiding.

The sisters, now 22 and 18 years old, contended in their suit that they were poisoned by ingesting dust or flakes of deteriorating lead-based paint in a house in the 2100 block of Hollins St., which was owned at the time by Levitas. The elder sister was 2 years old in 1994 when their mother moved in, and the younger was not yet born, according to Nicholas Szokoly, one of their lawyers.

The plaintiffs' lawyers presented evidence during the trial that the home had lead-based paint and that it was peeling or flaking in places while the family lived there until 1998.

Levels of lead...

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State could deny key Conowingo permit

Exelon Corp. could be denied a key Maryland permit — at least for now — that the company needs to keep generating electricity at Conowingo Dam for decades to come.

Saying there's not enough information on the dam's impact on the Chesapeake Bay, the state Department of the Environment has declared its intent to deny Exelon certification that the hydroelectric facility on the lower Susquehanna River meets state and federal water quality standards.

The department issued a statement saying it has not made a final determination, and is seeking public comment, either in writing or at a Jan. 7 hearing.

But it pointed out that a report released last week found the upper bay, though not the entire estuary, is being affected by the build-up of sediment behind the dam. The report, on a three-year study led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, concluded that the additional flow of nutrient pollution past the dam could prevent the bay's deeper northern waters from being clean enough to...

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Junk-hauling firm plans move into franchising

One nice thing about the junk-hauling business: You don't have to spend much furnishing the office.

Ryan Sentz and Tim Prestianni, partners in a three-year-old company called BumbleJunk, are in for about a half-million dollars, but very little of that investment went into the accoutrements of their chilly headquarters in an industrial park near Dundalk.

They bought two desks, but everything else they picked up on jobs: another desk, portable space heater, black office swivel chairs, shelves, whiteboards and framed pictures, including one of those old "Poverty Sucks" posters featuring disco owner Michael O'Harro in British country gentleman's garb posing with a silver Rolls Royce.

The recycled stuff fits the environmentally friendly theme of the business; the poster suits the aspiration. Sentz, 29, and Prestianni, 33, hope to make it big by franchising the business, and projected that by 2016, the company they started in January 2012 will be up to $1 million in revenue — more than...

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Council passes body camera bill, plastic bag ban, but veto looms

The City Council voted Monday to ban plastic grocery bags and require all of Baltimore's nearly 3,000 police officers to wear body cameras. But Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake promptly repeated her pledge to veto both bills.

"I can't sign legislation that I think sends the wrong message to our citizens and to businesses," Rawlings-Blake said. Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said he'd be shocked if he could muster the necessary votes to override the vetoes.

Council members backed the plastic bag ban as a environmental initiative necessary to help keep the litter out of the Chesapeake Bay. But the mayor said the bill wasn't properly vetted, noting it began as legislation to charge a fee for the bags and didn't get another public hearing when amended to be a ban. The proposal would make Baltimore one of the first East Coast cities to outlaw plastic bags.

The council voted 11-1 to pass the plastic bag ban, with Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector opposed and Councilmen Brandon...

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Counties' ambitious stream restoration projects stir debate

Whitemarsh Run looks a mess, more a construction site than a stream.

With its flow temporarily dammed and diverted, a track hoe is carving out a new, more sinuous channel for the badly degraded waterway running through a built-up patch of northeastern Baltimore County. New banks are being built, armored in places with granite boulders — all part of a $13 million makeover that's intended to help clean up the nearby Bird River and the Chesapeake Bay.

Bits of the 11/2- mile long project that have been completed look like a tranquil country stream, its water sliding across stones placed along and in its channel. But some scientists and environmentalists question whether such feats of ecological engineering, by themselves, can really revive a dead stream, or even reduce pollution much.

"I can build a wiggly stream," said Martin W. Doyle, a professor of river science and policy at Duke University who's studied and worked on restoration projects. "All over Baltimore County, all over North...

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